Posted by: Philip Rushton | May 28, 2013

Diversity As A Context For Spiritual Formation

imagesI’m a day into my study leave at Duke Divinity school out in North Carolina (pictured on the right). It has been a gift to have this time to reflect and be renewed in my own faith. I’m taking part in Duke’s Summer Institute in Theology put on by their Center For Reconciliation. I’m here with a diverse group of pastors, teachers, social workers, and peace activists from all around the globe. The purpose of this institute is to develop a theological vision for reconciliation in our world. We are discussing how our faith and commitment to Christ informs how we engage our world in redemptive ways.

The key verse that has framed the theme of our week comes from 2 Corinthians where Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

I have been reminded again that our commitment to Christ is simultaneously personal and social. On the one hand, our faith is a personal journey of reconciliation to God; however, it is also something that informs how we respond to the hurts of our world. As 2 Corinthians 5 reminds us, our experience of God’s grace and forgiveness is the foundation by which we are then sent into the world to be ambassadors of forgiveness and grace to others.

My afternoon seminar consists of a number of pastors who lead congregations that are diverse in nature. The key insight I gained from our session today is that diversity is a context for spiritual formation. At church we often struggle to maintain unity in the midst of our diversity. Our differences in politics, theology, and worship styles can create barriers and challenges. What our speakers emphasized today is that this diversity is actually a gift. By learning to live together in the midst of our differences we confront our selfishness and learn how to love others. We also gain new perspectives and insights from those who are different then us. This insight brings meaning and significance to the challenges we face in community. Our tendency is to cut and run when things don’t our way, or when we have a disagreement with someone in the church. Framing diversity as a means of spiritual formation encourages us to see the value and importance in sticking with a church.

One facilitator said that each of us should be probably be outside of our comfort zone at church about 30% of the time. This assures that we are creating room for the needs and interests of others in the community. It is way in which we extend hospitality to each other. I think this is an important concept for us to keep and mind as we continue to figure out how to do life together in our beautifully diverse congregation in Longview!

Thank you for giving me space to be refreshed and renewed this week. I am so grateful for our church family.

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Responses

  1. I’m so glad and happy you were able to go! What a great gift you’ll be bringing back to the congregation. I haven’t made it up to 30% probably because I’m still in the happiness fog of newness. love Victoria


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